Bär, Oskar-Heinz “Pritzl” born, 25-5-1913, in Sommerfeld near Leipzig in the Kingdom of Saxony, a federated state of the German Empire. His parents were farmers, and in 1916, his father was killed in action on the Western Front of World War I. Bär attended the Volksschule, a combined primary and lower secondary school, in Sommerfeld. Initially, he planned on taking over the family farm in Engelsdorf and following graduation attended the agriculture school in Wurzen. Aged 15, he became a glider pilot, joining the glider club on the “Schwarzer Berg” (Black Mountain) at Taucha. Bär then wanted to become a forester, for everything associated with wildlife and forests interested him. His first sight of a Junkers transport aircraft changed his mind and convinced him that he should become an aviator. As a teenager, he had ambitions to become an airline pilot with Deutsche LuftHansa . He acquired the nickname Pritzl because of his affection for Pritzl candy bars.
Bär, a Saxon with a strong accent, joined the Reichswehr in 1934 and transferred to Göring’s Luftwaffe in 1935. Serving first as a mechanic, then as a pilot on transport aircraft, he was informally trained as a fighter pilot . He claimed his first aerial victory in September 1939 on the French border. By the end of the Battle of Britain, his tally of victories had increased to 17. Transferred to the Eastern Front to participate in Operation Barbarossa, he quickly accumulated further kills, a feat that earned him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords for 90 aerial victories in February 1942.
German losses of Fieldmarshall Friedrich Paulus’s 6th Army and 4th Panzer under Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici, were over 300,000 men. Romanian casualties were 158,854, 114,520 Italians (84,830 killed, missing and 29,690 wounded) and 143,000 Hungarian (80,000 killed, missing and 63,000 wounded). Losses among Soviet POW turncoats Hiwis, or Hilfswillige range between 19,300 and 52,000.
On 23 April, Bär transferred to the elite Jet Experten unit Jagdverband 44, JV 44, led by Adolf Galland. On 26 April, he assumed command of the unit when Galland was wounded. Bär possibly flew his first operational sortie with JV 44 on 27-04-1945. Flying the Me 262 A-1/U5, a six MK 108 cannon prototype, he was accompanied by Major Wilhelm Herget and the non-commissioned officer, NCO Unterofficer Franz Köster when the trio engaged American fighters over Riem; Bär claimed one aerial victory. While not flying operationally, Bär spent most of his time giving hasty instruction to the new pilots still being assigned to JV 44. With JV 44, he achieved his final four aerial victories (3P-47s and 1 Mosquito on 28 April, bringing his total to 220. All told, he had achieved 16 victories in the Me 262, making him the second most successful Jet Expert of the war, which he finished as an Oberstleutnant. Wilhelm Herget died age 63 on 27-03-1974 in Stuttgart.
In the early morning hours of 4 May 1945, Bär gathered the pilots of JV 44 for a final briefing. Bär ordered the remaining Me 262 destroyed before going into captivity and interrogation by US Intelligence officers of the 1st Tactical Air Force’s Air Prisoner of War Interrogation Unit, based at Heidelberg.
During the remainder of World War II, Bär was credited with 130 other aerial victories, including 16 while flying one of the first jet fighters, the Me 262, an achievement which would normally have earned him the coveted Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Hermann Göring‘s
personal dislike of Bär, coupled with Bär’s insubordinate character and lack of military discipline, deprived him of this award.
He ended the war as an Oberstleutnant and flew more than 1.000 misseions,was shot down 18 times, and had 220 victories. His score of 124 against western pilots was surpassed only by Marseille (158 skills). The 16 jet victories he had with the ME 262 during the last months of the war is still a world record.
Death and burial ground of Bär, Oskar-Heinz “Pritzl”
After World War II, Bär continued his career as an aviator. He was killed in a flying accident on 28-04-1957, age 43, near Brunswick while demonstrating a light plane. There is a Remembrance stone on the local cemetery of Sommerfeld/Leipzig, but my friend Wolfgang Linke from Frankfurt am Main, found his grave on the Sudfriedhof of Frankfurt am Main, in Section B.